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Leek Tourist Information centre set to move into the Nicholson Institute

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: April 09, 2014

Leek's Tourist Information Centre.

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A tourist information centre is set to be relocated – despite claims it is being moved to a "cubby hole".

Members of the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's cabinet agreed yesterday, Tuesday, to move Leek's Tourist Information Centre (TIC) from its current location in the town's Market Place, to a room in the first floor of the Nicholson Institute in Stockwell Street.

The move is set to save the authority £316,378 over a 16-year period as it aims to sub-let the Market Place building.

However, members of the council's service delivery overview and scrutiny panel, last Wednesday, had voted that officers should explore other sites in the town to relocate the TIC to, including the Foxlowe Arts Centre.

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Concerns about moving the TIC to the Nicholson Institute included that the new location would be hidden away from visitors, that access was difficult and the proposed room was too small.

Portfolio of communities Councillor Gill Burton said at yesterday's cabinet meeting: "I went to the scrutiny meeting and listened to members' views on this.

"I have considered what was said and the amendments that they wanted, but my recommendation still stands.

"To say that people can't find the Nicholson Institute is ludicrous. In November last year, there was a footfall of 2,793 visiting the museum, gallery and shop.

"Concerns were also raised about access and yet we have disabled access at the Institute.

"We have an offer of sub-let for the Market Place building on the table. We need to move on this offer."

Leader of the authority, Councillor Sybil Ralphs, added: "There has been comments that perhaps Leek Town Council could relocate to the TIC building and yet those members said no to the move. Why don't they go into the Foxlowe Arts Centre? That would be an ideal location for them.

"We have got a corporate asset in the Nicholson Institute that we can use in the best way to safeguarding the TIC and the funding we are going to save."

Town and district councillor Charlotte Atkins, who strongly opposed the move at last week's scrutiny meeting, told the Post & Times yesterday after hearing of the cabinet's decision: "It makes a complete sham of the scrutiny process and of local democracy. Even their own members were against it. Their report didn't mention the last time that the very same scrutiny panel overturned the TIC moving into Moorlands House in 2012.

"Last week, I read out 11 reasons why it made sense for the TIC to be moved to the Foxlowe. Those reasons were set out in a report to cabinet by an officer dated June 2012.

"That report also stated that when the TIC was temporarily moved to Moorlands House, the footfall decreased by 56 percent. They have now completely ignored that report and swept it away."

Ms Atkins added: "The scrutiny committee agreed that the TIC could move but not to a cubby hole in the first floor of the Nicholson Institute – that is just madness. I am shocked that they would do this.

"We will be calling this in and it will be brought back to scrutiny."

Fellow town and district councillor John Povey, who also opposes the move, added: "I am disappointed that they have ignored recommendations to explore different options before making the final decision.

"I am not confident that the footfall that has been enjoyed in the Market Place will be transferred to the Nicholson Institute. I think a lot less people will use the TIC."

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